The 2018 CMA Awards got off to a fairly predictable start Wednesday night. There was a star-studded opening number. We had the somewhat humorous opening monologue, and we had the requisite number of overproduced and over-choreographed performances. Not that any of what I saw was bad, I'd just seen it all before.

And then, in a flash of white hair and wicked licks, the entire show changed. The Ricky Skaggs tribute last night featured some of the most amazing musicianship I've ever seen. You had Ricky, a recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, and his band trading licks with the likes of Keith Urban and John Osborne. Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart then joined the party! It was pickin' and grinnin' at it's finest! It was at that point that the show turned.

After that, you had the Midland tribute to Burt Reynolds with the classic 'East Bound and Down'. You had Kacey Musgraves singing a cut off her award-winning album Golden Hour. The Pistol Annies tore up the stage with their traditional sounding homage to divorce, 'Got My Name Changed Back'. Eric Church kicked ass with 'Desperate Man' and the Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, Mavis Staples performance had us all swaying like we were in church on a Wednesday night! It was as much fun as I've had watching a country awards show in a long time.

Country music is in a bit of a strange place. I left last night's show with a feeling like there is a battle for the soul of the genre. You have mainstream country acts pushing the boundaries. And then you have a handful of artists embracing the more traditional side of the format. Last night, at least for a while, the latter won. Thanks to you, Ricky Skaggs.